The word slug suggests a gastropod, a counterfeit coin, or a heavy hitter as at home plate. Slug Meyers was a heavy hitter, but not with a baseball bat. He was the only crew member who regularly had Copenhagen snuff ensconced against his gums.
When USS EAGLE 32 arrived in San Francisco in November 1945 I spent my first day ashore getting reacquainted with the city I enjoyed so much three years before. A few days later while walking along Lombard Street during a great afternoon, I was hailed from a saloon by Ace Beruman, my chief watertender, and by Slug Meyers, the first-class quartermaster in our ship. Nothing would do but for Ace’s boss, the engineering officer, to have a drink with them.
After I returned their hospitality Slug opened a tin of snuff and held it toward Ace who promptly took some. Slug was about to take some for himself when he hesitated. I read in his expression, “It’s rude not to offer any to the engineering officer, but he doesn’t even smoke. I should offer the snuff anyway and let him refuse.”
Had that been all I sensed I would have said, “No thanks.”
However when Slug offered the tin there was a glint in his eyes and a slight smile to his mouth that conveyed, “I dare you take some.”
No engineer from the merchant marine could refuse the challenge. I doubt if the pulverized tobacco was against my gums for a minute when I coughed bits in all directions and simultaneously got the hiccups. Fortunately we were the tavern’s only patrons; it was embarrassing enough to be hiccuping away in front of just my two shipmates and the barmaid.
Ace and Slug were laughing hysterically, but they were not unconcerned. About six remedies were proposed and tried including the barmaid’s suggestion for me to drink water through a towel held over the bottom half of a drink shaker. It seems that I stopped hiccupping due to sheer exhaustion.
By the time I returned to the ship, a blister formed inside my mouth where the snuff had been. When the pharmacist mate asked about what happened I replied, “I was slugged.”
Since I did not stand deck watches, I was given every collateral duty that the commanding officers in Eagle 32 could think of. One of them was to oversee the one-man operation of the ship’s gyp joint. That required me to perform periodic audits and to maintain the bank account where the profits, normally spent for recreation equipment and rare ship’s parties, were deposited.
The decommissioning instructions required that any unspent funds had to be sent to the Navy’s general recreation fund in Washington, D.C. I believed that the mugs in Eagle 32 deserved something special with the few hundred dollars that were available. Thus, I retained a San Francisco portrait photographer to set up his gear in the ship’s wardroom for the purpose of shooting portraits of every man in the ship. When the photographer asked how many copies per man were required, I instructed him to produce as many copies as the funds available would purchase. The crew was delighted.
This is the portrait of me that was so obtained.
Copyright © 2005 (text only) by Louis D. Chirillo